Together! This is the time. Over the last months, we have anchored around the theme of Emerge Stronger. The goal and mission to navigate the stress of the times and come out of the other side stronger than prior. This has been important for many, but this week I would like to refine the perspective a little. It is time to BE STRONGER. As we slide backward concerning the virus and reopening in many parts of the world, we cannot allow ourselves to slide backward mentally. It is time to come together -- again -- and set a path to chase life, chase racing, and charge towards a path that allows us to thrive. I believe we have the blueprint for all Purple Patch athletes over the coming months, and much of this came through in a conversation I had with an athlete just this week.
A few days ago, I had a terrific conversation with a Purple Patch athlete who, like many of us, is struggling for direction in today’s climate. As I finished the nice chat, I realized that my thoughts expressed to him likely extend to most of the Purple Patch athletes at the moment. I thought I would share the three major points of discussion we anchored on, starting with the athlete’s question/concern.
I am staying consistent in training, but not sure of my progression globally. I always want to improve - but it is tough in this environment. A little vulnerability was a great way to launch the conversation, and this became a central focus. Progress is not linear in sport -- or life -- and there are going to be times that we don’t improve or even chase improvement. Most humans keep their lens on right in front or just behind them, but we are not great at coming up a level and playing the long game. With a year like this, we collectively want to focus on the things that are going to keep driving us forward in the long term and use the opportunity to work on weaknesses, but this doesn’t mean we all charge to see breakout performance levels while we are working on these things. Life is full of stress and uncertainty, and it is a tough arena to be experiencing linear progression in the classic sense of the word. I think it is a fine time to center around fundamental improvements of core areas, but equally, give ourselves latitude to… play. Yes, play. Experiment, try new things, remove some of the pressure. There is a balance between remaining focused and ensuring that we emerge stronger, while also having the courage and capacity to mix things up a little and try new things. I think we can collectively and individually do both things. Over the last months, I have seen athletes try different things, from chasing up a hill on Zwift in a weekly race to big biking adventure tours through the center of England, to an epic paddleboard weekend adventure. It is all OK in the scheme of things, and I encourage athletes to focus on the fundamentals of improvement, but also remove the pressure of direct linear progress as a pass/fail endeavor. Just like a rest day in a week of training, that helps long-term progression, a little breathing room of expectations under the scope of structure and progression, and allows for the freedom to enjoy the journey. It will help drive you forward in the big picture.
I keep getting myself excited for a race, then see another canceled. It feels like moving targets and it throws me into despair. How can I drive toward a race when I think it will be removed from the schedule? A month ago it felt like we were just creeping around the corner (at least the first corner) of this situation. We were emerging, and races really might happen. In the US, the environment has changed again, and racing begins to slip away again. We all need a compass, usually in the form of something to train for that keeps passion and vigor in the journey. As the environment began to shift again, I decided to take action with a simple mindset:
If the reality is that races are slipping away, let’s go create our own reality!
Every Purple Patch athlete needs direction and something to challenge and chase. We also need something tangible to build training around, so if aspects out of our control remove these opportunities, let’s create these aspects. There are three simple principles:
- Competition -- a little friendly and appropriate feeling of challenging yourself and that little buzz of racing.
- Accomplishment -- setting up things that create a real sense of accomplishment, while being fun
- Community -- it is so much more powerful if we do it together, and we are in a place of collective strength as we have a global community.
With these three principles as the driver, the Purple Patch team is in the process of designing a late summer and fall series of challenges and races to ‘train for.’ These will be a blend of very real virtual racing with real-world collective challenges that can anchor the training and set up an exclusive environment for athletes to chase. We will likely lean into some outside platforms to carve a great racing experience, but want to ensure that the races/challenges facilitate improvement, create challenge, are fun, and ensure that athletes are set up for a great 2021 of real racing. I added for the athlete, that by anchoring around these races, we will also be equipped to be ‘real race-ready’ if things improve.
I am juggling so much in life at the same time as training, it feels like I am bringing less to training over these months. Yes! That is common. As I mentioned above, life is full of so much stress right now. So much. It is a tough environment to be fixated and obsessed with managing life’s commitments and challenges equally with an obsession with sports performance improvement (with no real compass of racing at the moment).
Change the conversation and perspective! This was my message to the athlete:
You should consider shifting the mindset of training and its role over these months. Let me be clear, your training is absolutely a critical piece of your life performance right now. In fact, I would argue that it has never been more important for you. This doesn’t mean that your training requires your obsessive lens in this phase. Your training and supportive habits are the very backbone that holds up your resilience and adaptability to thrive in all the other aspects of your life. If viewed the right way, it can also be your release from these stressors and a central place of fun, adventure, and escape. Don’t make training a second job right now, you already have more than enough on your plate. You -- and every single person I know -- benefit from the structure, the progression, the challenge, and chasing toward something in training. This doesn’t mean it needs to be deadly serious and a test of your self-worth. The physical fitness and structured training improve your stability of routine, provide a framework to perform, and give you the physical capacity to cope. Don’t turn your back on the thing that is anchoring your capacity to navigate and thrive in this time.
Oh, and one more thing ‘John’, don’t take it so seriously. Allow yourself to have fun with your training. You need it.
I think I could have said these very words to many of you.
We hope that you have drawn something from this week’s Coach’s Corner that allows you to find motivation, strength, and fun ahead. As ever, our team is here for you.
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